Thursday, July 25, 2013

Good mental health

'Diaries of a Broken Mind'
Screen capture from BBC3
BBC has been running a series of different mini-documentaries on mental illness. I decided to watch a few of them through iPlayer because I'm always fascinated by the way the media portrays mental illness and because it's also been on my mind quite a lot since the release of Wise at any Age - which was inspired by my own experience with an anxiety disorder and depression.

The last show I watched was called Diaries of a Broken Mind and it followed several people under the age of 30 as they described their lives with everything from anorexia to agoraphobia.

Almost all of them said they 'hated it' or that they just wished they could be 'normal' and towards the end of the documentary they were asked this question:
Would you get rid of your condition if you could? 

This statement says so much about how far too many people view mental illness, including those who  currently have one.

This statement presupposes that all mental illness is somehow incurable.

As it was, I began writing what would become Wise at any Age the day I was told I no longer had a disorder, which is why this question irks me so. I no longer suffer from Panic Disorder and haven't experienced a bout of depression in over five years - just like I don't have shingles anymore or a cold or the flu or any other number of illnesses I've experienced.

Mental illness, just like any illness, isn't necessarily a chronic condition. Like any illness, it requires a great level of care and balance to recuperate from it and like any other illness, it can come up again.

Because of my anxiety I learned how important it is to love yourself first and best. Because of my anxiety I learned to listen to my gut and trust my own sense of reason. Because of my anxiety I have learned how important it is to pay attention. Because of my anxiety I have learned that I am resilient, capable, and entirely able to recover, grow, and change.

I know a lot of people will question how someone aged 28 came to write a book about wisdom. The entire point I'm making is that we can and will gain wisdom at any point in our lives, if we're paying attention to the lessons and looking at the world with curiosity. In the BBC Mini-Series Don't Call Me Crazy a thirteen year old makes the very wise observation:

"OCD doesn’t define who I am. I like music, I like playing the guitar, I like bands, I like the colour yellow, I like chocolate… I don’t like them because I have OCD. I like them because I am Emma"

So here's a question I'm throwing out there - taking into account that even those with something chronic can create coping mechanisms and a support network that will help them recover from a hopeless place: 
What have you learned from your experience with mental illness? 

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